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Getting Sick of it All?

Hello BU parents,

    I want to talk to you about a topic that is all too common this year: illness. Last week, the entire family of someone in our office had a stomach virus. Yesterday and today, one of my colleagues was out with sinus stuff. All over campus, students are sniffling sneezing, and carrying Dayquil, Zicam, and Airborne strapped to their hips like weapons.

Sickness can be a tricky issue for young college students. In the past, Mom and Dad always had the discretion to say, “You’re sick. Stay home.” Or perhaps–if things work in your house like they did in my family–a fever or vomiting are the only two factors which could bring on a sick day.

As pseudo-adults, our students can make these decisions themselves now. They have to use their own good judgement about when to stay in the residence hall, sleep, and chug some Sunny D. The only problem is that for some of them, this is a tough judgement call.

Good students are often hard workers, holding down part time jobs, performing duties in clubs, and generally burning the candle at both ends. These are often the students who can easily succumb to sickness because they’re worn down. To those students we say, “Yes, I know you have a presentation and three club meetings, but you’re running a fever. STAY HOME! The rest of us don’t want your creeping crud.”

But even the most conscientious student is sometimes looking for an excuse to play a little hookie (who hasn’t?). Some sniffles and aches can often cause a student in this case to cloister him/herself in the dorm, skip class, sleep all day, and then later (only after the professor has already noticed his/her absence) mumble lamely, “Well, I was sick.”

The first problem with this scenario is that the student didn’t call before class to let all profs know he or she was sick. I can hear them all now, saying, “But I was so sick. I couldn’t get to my phone/email.” To which I respond, “You didn’t send one text all day? You didn’t update your facebook status to, ‘So sick I can’t smell anything? If I got sick and just stayed home all day and didn’t call my boss, I’d be fired. It can’t be that hard to make a phone call. If you miss class and your massive paper is due and you don’t say anything about it to your prof before the next class, it’s already too late! A call before class, though, can make a world of difference.”

Many classes at BU have attendance policies (and by “policy,” I mean “limit”), and nine times out of ten, students who are “sick” early on are the ones who somehow need to really use their three or four allotted absences later in the semester for a legitimate reason.

If that doesn’t deter your students from careless “sick days,” have him or her do the math on the hourly cost of a class. Just how much money goes out the window when he or she misses just one session?

Now, of course, there will be extenuating circumstances, and some students will have extended health emergencies, and faculty and staff are tremoundously accomodating around here. Don’t worry about that.  Students in those positions should just make sure to keep their profs abreast of the situation.

Meantime, here are some good rules of thumb that have kept some of us afloat through the bi-annual plagues.

1) An anounce of prevention is a pound of cure (good food, good sleep).

2) If you have a fever or nasty, nasty coughing and sneezing, stay home.

3) If you feel pretty bad but maybe like you could make it through one more day, ask yourself: Do I feel OK with maybe making my classmates and prof sick? If I struggle through today, is that going to make me better or worse tomorrow?

3) If you’re sick enough to skip class, you’re sick enough to see Nurse Alice.

4) Call your professors BEFORE you miss class. At the very least, email.

5) Unless you’re massively, feverishly, delirously ill, you better keep up on your reading. “I was sick” is generally not an excuse not to read.

6) If you’re legitimately sick, let your roommate and RA know so someone can check on you.

Keep reading in good health! Happy Weekend!

Jessica Hume, c/o 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications, ARC

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About Cassie

I'm the Director of the Writing Center and Director of Parent Communications at Bellarmine University.

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